One needs only to look with care at Yolande Bennett delicately nuanced acrylic and gold leaf on linen paintings to realise that this artist is captivated with the perception of universal spaces. In her vision, two different dimensions coalesce as one: an inner vision and a type of representation that refers to the mimetic, to objects or their qualities that reside in the world of lived experience and reality. The near-impossibility of wrenching one system of sight from the other is at the core of this work’s mystery and beauty. With this realisation in mind, it becomes quite clear this very fine artist intends to engage her viewers with the suggestive potency of symbolic material which refers to the antithesis of spirit-matter and matter-form: contrarieties always seeking synthesis but never achieving it.
Perhaps the first operative illusionistic level we must contend with is the fastidious ordering of the surface tension through process. One might do well to begin by pointing out surfaces which are made by applying segments of coloured marks onto the linen. The linear tracing quality of paintings depicting the artist’s reflections of the Louvre Museum and iconic pieces from its collection is a striking feature of the current series. The radiant feeling of the mark making, overall fields which resemble grid patterns or energy fields seem to ebb and flow on the larger forms which rest within them. They are fascinating to behold, a prism of the phantasmagoric. These patterns and textures allow the inner eye infinite access to a limitless and transcendent pictorial plane. The field is boundless and universal. The larger contrasted forms shimmer like apparitions within their overall spectral force fields.
Three dimensions are insinuated but not stressed as size and scale becomes sublimely indeterminate. The dream quality pervades these efforts in which one can discern architectural or figural shapes that hover tremulously over the surfaces. These forms resist interpretation as they flitter as spectral beings in and out of view. It is the mere suggestion of the Renaissance and Baroque realised in a momentary flush, and then retreating, like a dream, in the night that keeps our attention and wonder fully aflame. The phosphorescent and near-evanescent movements of these forms are held further in check by the balanced and nuanced use of more concentrically held together fluid marks, such as spills, washes and drips. This systematic oscillation between the vastness of space and the concentration of energy fields, which holds this space at bay creates a charged atmosphere which keeps us in the work’s thrall.
An even less literal reading is possible, even though a naturalistic and organic sensation is wedded to a more systematised and less adumbrated figural notation. In her paintings, the artist suggests the exhilaration of finding unexpected discoveries with woven patterning which result from a close examination of organic contours. In such works, there arises a spontaneous drive for the unlimited, unfettered examination to find its own levels of passion and reason, as enigmatic and allusive though it may be.
Yolande Bennett’s investigations in form and colour address issues that preoccupy the best artists working today: issues of displacement found in dreams, nature, history, artefact display, and the role cultural of cultural exchange. She writes: “My practice works within these hybrid spaces that exist between the different cultures. Such divergent influences have become a trademark not only for me but for the many people crossing cultural boundaries, acutely in this time of globalisation.” In this sense, the artist’s musings on process and form and the symbolic attendant interfacing with disciplines outside of the area of art (and myth-making, for what else is art than a collective dream or hallucination) can be likened to Umberto Ecco’s definition of an encyclopaedia: a network without a centre.
The artist explores the use of process and the unconscious as an exhilarating way to tear down the veils that prevent true perception to occur and the re-presentation of new experiences. What is particularly striking in many of Yolande Bennett’s images is the assured way the artist takes the best possible opportunities to enlarge her playful visual transformations in order for her even faintest phantom images to transform their visual character. There is what we might call a golden crystallisation which has occurred in the work and the perceiver’s mind. The work itself is charged with expressiveness which we feel most directly as circuitous meandering of colour and outline surge with an electric dynamism that exceeds expectations. The contours of these images become ours in the process of somatic (and psychic) identification. The artist’s vistas of the mind keep us suspended, in equipoise, between the edge of chaos and the brink of lucidity. Out of such concerns the visual poetry in Yolande Bennett’s work emerges, keeping its sway on the viewer.
John Austin is an art writer living and working in Manhattan.